Saturday, 20 April 2013

A D20 saved my life

... not literally of course, though a D20 certainly saved the lives of Orlok the Dwarf, Albert the insane inventor with the monkey head in a jar of whisky, Tivian Stark the Paladin and a host of other strange characters played by me over the course of more than a decade of gaming. And while a D20 may not have actually saved my life, gaming has certainly saved my sanity (ironic coming from a Call of Cthulhu GM, huh?). My gaming group has provided a solid core of friendship and entertainment, a place we gather once a week to tell each other ridiculous stories and roll dice, and laugh (there's always a lot of laughter).

I actually got into gaming relatively late, most of my group have been rolling dice and slaying orcs since they were kids, but I actually only seriously got into the hobby in my 20s. I'd been put off RPGs fairly early on. In my teens I was a fan of the Ravenloft books published by TSR and, finding that it was also a game, I wanted to play it. When the guy in the shop told me that I'd have to fork out for the Dungeon Master's Guide, The Players Handbook and the Monstrous Manual on top of the Ravenloft sourcebooks, I decided not to bother with Dungeons & Dragons. Pocket money only stretches so far. Monetary consideratiosn were probably why I also never seriously got into Warhammer. There was just too much stuff. So, though I was a genre geek, gaming never really played a large part in my formative years.

And then, sometime in my late teens, a friend of mine told me about a game that was based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. That anyone could take anything as mental as Lovecraft's work and make an actual game of it, meant that I just had to play it. So, when I went to do my MA at Reading University, I signed up to the gaming group and decided to get into the hobby properly.

My first game wasn't actually Call of Cthulhu, however, it was Werewolf. And it wasn't entirely my cup of tea. A bit too gothy, a bit too serious. Some of the folk in that group, however, quickly became solid friends (even if I did piss a couple of them off in the first few sessions) and remain in my gaming group to this day. So as a social thing, gaming was brilliant. I was meeting lovely new folk and a few times a week we'd get together and do one of my favourite things - tell each other stories.

And then... then, I finally found it in the local gaming shop:

Yes, the Call of Cthulhu RPG was mine! And it was just as every bit as good as I had been hoping. You see, the reason that this is my favourite RPG is that it's so simple. You can get the rules on the first read-through and the game dynamic is such that it positively requires you to rely on story-telling and inventiveness to actually advance through the plot.

Even after I left uni, I stayed in Reading and the gamers I'd met during my MA became my friend base. And, yes, we continued to game. A hobby that has joined us together ever since. Gaming has been a huge influence not only on my social life, but my imagination generally. Both Call of Kerberos and The Wrath of Kerberos were not only hugely influenced by the works of Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber, but gaming, particularly Dungeons & Dragons (see, I eventually got round to it!). In fact, my gaming group appear as city guards in the first novel and are, obviously, messily and hilariously dispatched.

We've all grown up, we have responsibilties, jobs, wives, children, mortgages - but once a week we get together to spin tales and roll dice.

My family keep my grounded.

But Pete, James, Owen, Sam, Craig - you give me that much needed weekly dose of insanity.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Writing, and that...

Wow, so apparently I have a blog, who knew, right?

So anyway, apologies for all the radio silence etc etc. The main reason for this is that I have been busy as all fuck with the day job. All going well at Rebellion HQ and I'm delighted to say that David Moore is now the commissioning editor of Abaddon. David has some very exciting plans for the imprint and I couldn't be happier to hand over my literary mutant baby to someone who is not only a superb editor, but also a great friend.

Anyway, I have been tinkering a bit with words and there is a new thing for you to buy which has my words in it. It's even available as an e-book, so there is no excuse not to. My story 'Tea and Sympathy', a black comedy about growing old and desire, had been published in Horror Express 3, which you can buy here:

I'm also delighted to say that I have placed my latest story 'White Horse.' I won't announce where as yet, as I want the publisher to do the big reveal of the full line-up.

Anyway, the confidence boost from the recent publications and acceptance I've had means I'm back in the writing saddle. Which is mainly a nice place to be.

Overall, then, a pretty good year so far. All is well with the Olivers. Maia, our two year old daughter, is now super excited to be in her big girl bed. No more cot. Though I did check on her in the small hours of Friday morning to find her sleeping under the rocking chair in her room. Which is both (a) pretty cute and (b) a tiny bit reminiscent of Poltergeist. Fortunately for us our house isn't built on the site of an ancient Native American burial ground, those being in somewhat short supply in Abingdon.

Yesterday I had a day out in that there London at the Book Fair, which was nice. Though Earls Court is vast and airless and way too warm. Lovely it was too, to catch up with friends in the evening. I went for drinks and dinner with the variously hugely talented and lovely folk: Rebecca Levene, Ben Smith (of the Rebellion parish), Anne Perry and Lavie Tidhar. Jared Shurin also made a bonus appearance, but it was fleeting.

So, it was a really nice day, I got a whole bunch of writing done on the train and even had more of an inkling where to take the as yet pretty much unwritten Novel 3. (I know, that title is snappy as all that isn't it?)

Meanwhile I'm working my way through the tenth and 'final' book in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen Series, The Crippled God. I'm absolutely in awe of the way Erikson keeps such control of his vast fantasy universe. It's been a hell of a journey and one I'm glad I took. After such a huge series, though, I will take a breather before plunging back into epic fantasy. I may re-read, at some point soon, the entirety of the Lankhmar stories by Fritz Leiber. I may even blog about it.

In the meantime, go buy Horror Express 3 or, failing that, sending me unmarked bills in a brown paper packages.